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Players association executive skeptical about in-season blood testing

Michael Weiner, general counsel for the Major League

Michael Weiner, general counsel for the Major League Baseball Players Association, is interviewed in New York. (November 16, 2009) Photo Credit: AP

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - The new executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association Saturday expressed skepticism about the prospects of instituting an in-season blood-testing program for human growth hormone anytime soon.

Speaking after his annual closed-door meeting with the Mets, Michael Weiner said collecting blood from players during the grind of a 162-game schedule could "interfere" with their ability to play the game to the best of their abilities.

While also citing concerns about the viability of the current blood test for HGH, Weiner said the logistics of a random in-season blood-testing program presents a safety issue for players.

"There's a reason why our program relies on urine testing as opposed to blood testing," Weiner said. "The demands on baseball players really are different than the demands on athletes anywhere else in the world because of the daily requirements they have."

Weiner, who speaks to every team as part of a spring training tour, stressed that their first option is a viable urine test for human growth hormone, though experts believe that still is several years away.

"Asking to draw a player's blood before he has to go play on a summer night in St. Louis is a lot different than asking them to provide a urine sample before he has to go play on a summer night in St. Louis," he said. "Or asking him to draw blood after he played on a summer night in St. Louis and has to play on a summer afternoon the next day is different than collecting urine."

Weiner stressed that the union is steadfastly against the use of human growth hormone, citing the inclusion of HGH on the list of banned substances. He said he would be all for an HGH testing program if "we can do it in a way that is consistent with these other principles.''

"If there is a way to test for HGH, we'll have to figure out a way to involve that in the program," he said. "The science has to be solid. It has to be safe. And we can't compromise players' abilities to compete."

The blood test for HGH has been in use since the 2008 Olympics and last month captured its first positive, a British rugby player who responded by admitting his use.

Major League Baseball quickly responded by saying it is looking into the logistics of installing a blood-testing program in the minor leagues, where the majority of players are not protected by the union. Rob Manfred, MLB's chief labor-relations executive, recently said a successful blood- testing program in the minors could help MLB negotiate it into the next collective-bargaining agreement.

Weiner agreed. "There have been instances where implementation of drug testing in the minor leagues has given information to the collective-bargaining parties as to how best to adapt our program," he said, "but it's not a prerequisite."

But for now, Weiner has his concerns.

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